The life and times of Mohammed Fawehinmi
He used to come then like a guest, not really involved in the day-to-day business of the Chambers, so we didn’t have the opportunity of a close encounter, whilst he studied law. He was also not much involved in the political side at the time.
Unmistakably however, he had the same zeal, energy and strength as his father, if not more. Mohammed Fawehinmi was to all then like the young shall grow, who didn’t exhibit the silver spoon trait common with most first sons of the high and mighty. His father, the quintessential Chief Gani Fawehinmi, SAN, was a no nonsense man.
He didn’t spare Mo (as we used to call him) or any other person indeed. Mo himself told us tales of how he tasted of the Bulala, times without number. But once he got into the Chambers, Mo was on fire! He exuded amazing energy, for research and discovery. He told me he wanted to start from scratch, so he would come to my table and ask if I had legal issues to research on. He was very intelligent, humble, energetic, given to diligence and legal discoveries. He was very easy to relate with so he readily flowed with everybody. And did we all like him! It was usual for lawyers to gather to mimic Chief and recall some of his memorable encounters, either with the security agencies or with the media. And Mo would join us, adding his own narratives from his personal moments with Chief, whilst one of us stood by to watch out for Chief, who normally stormed the lawyers’ hall unannounced.
From the background story that he narrated to us himself, Mo wanted to enlist in the Nigerian Army and had proceeded to obtain the form for enrolment at the Nigerian Defence Academy, which he filled with so much enthusiasm. In one of the columns in the form was a space for his father to sign, so he joyfully took the form to Chief to endorse his signature. I’m sure you can guess what followed. Chief was livid with anger and it took the quick intervention of senior lawyers working with him then to calm him down and save Mo, who sprinted away like a deer. Who would have believed it, that this 14 year old boy was dreaming of joining the coup plotters, whom his father had battled all his life. Who would take over one of the most successful law firms in Africa? Mo told us that he was thoroughly disciplined in the wee hours of the following morning.
Mohammed was born in 1969 whilst Gani was in unlawful custody of the military at the Kaduna Prison, held under the draconian State Security (Detention of Persons) Decree No. 24 of 1967, promulgated by the military regime of General Yakubu Gowon. How could such a person aspire to join the military! Mo would later study English as his first degree before he proceeded to study law.
In all aspects of his life, Mo was a chip off the old block, in his strides, his character, his demeanour and even his passion. He didn’t so much believe in cutting corners, as he opted to go through the mills in the Chambers. He expressed his desire to be assigned to a senior lawyer for mentorship whilst going round the tables to pick one or two assignments for other lawyers.
By fate, Mo was assigned to me and we worked together on a number of cases. A day to any court hearing, Mo would have prepared the case file for our preview, gathered the authorities to be relied upon and checked through to see if there were pending assignments. And you can be sure that he would always get to court before you. He indeed inspired me, as he gave no sign that he was the son of my boss.
Mo had a very fertile mind, he was very probing and it took me time to get used to his many questions on legal issues arising from the cases that we handled together. One of those cases was the one instituted at the Federal High Court, Ikoyi, on behalf of fishermen against the massive oil spillage in Eket in 1998. He was so passionate about securing justice for the fishermen. In another case involving Madam Carol Effiong, whose only daughter connived with strangers to sell her mother’s house, Mo took over the case personally, vowing to ensure that justice prevailed on her side. Mo was a happy go lucky guy, very considerate of others and the plight of the downtrodden. On some occasions, he had intervened to secure legal representation for some category of persons who could not afford the cost of hiring lawyers. I enjoyed my time with him.
Mo was also a family man. He was always with Mubarak, more as a shield from Chief, who didn’t spare him at all, in his disciplinarian attitudes. When his younger sister, Basirat was at the Nigerian Law School, Mo would approach me to help organize tutorial classes for her, on Sundays and would even offer to sponsor my lunch. If I complained about my car he would offer to drive me to Victoria Island and would wait around in the hostel for me to finish my classes to take me back. Many years later, he jokingly told me that he thought I would’ve taken up the opportunity to make the usual proposals. Me! Propose to Chief’s daughter! It didn’t even cross my mind to attempt such suicide mission, as anyone in my shoes would have considered it then. Thank God she came out in flying colours and later settled down with her heartthrob.
To be continued tomorrow.
Adegboruwa is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN).
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